If Bristol is famous for anything, it's an intriguing and somewhat eccentric back catalogue. Only recently we featured the Blenheim, a car named for the light bomber rather than the palace - although arguably with styling more attuned to the latter. The Blenheim rather typified Bristol: utterly distinctive despite being somewhat borrowed, incredulously but also enigmatically out of date, and crammed to the rafters with the sort of postwar charm you'd typically find emanating from an old toy box (despite, of course, being updated to Series 3 format in the late nineties).
Personally, I always fancied the Brigand version - mostly for the outrageous brilliance of its name and the Scirocco headlights, and a little bit for the thought of the Rotomeister turbo which Bristol had strapped to its favoured Chrysler V8. Today though we're focusing on the firm's final folly - the Fighter. Considering the manufacturer's penchant for self-referential aircraft names, the label says much of what you need to know about the model. This was a new Bristol, then marshalled by Toby Silverton, in its most thrusting guise.
Of course the car took an age to materialise. It was announced in 1999, and the concept went down a storm thanks to its gullwing doors and Dodge Viper mechanicals. But Bristol hadn't built an all-new car in 40 years, and it wasn't about to rush the idea. A box-section chassis finally appeared in 2003, designed by a race-car engineer, Max Boxstrom. The hand-beaten mostly aluminium body looked a treat, its magnificent proportions seating you just ahead of the rear axle - and about 18ft distance from the nose.
The presence of the Viper's massive 8.0-litre V10 hadn't made the Fighter oversized though: it was 115mm narrower than the donor car, ridiculously close to the ground and boasted a 0.28 coefficient drag factor. It was also said to weigh 1540kg, which isn't much at all when there's 532hp powering it (or 637hp if you bought it in 'S' format). The standard model would have you to 60mph in 4 seconds via a manual six-speed gearbox - only needing a single ratio to get there.
With 515lb ft of torque available, the Fighter inevitably didn't want for performance in any gear (save for sixth, where it would apparently pull 40mph per 1000rpm) which is good because it left plenty of spare time for admiring the cabin's bespoke fixtures and fittings. As was Bristol's way, these featured many allusions to its plane-making past, with the side windows opening in sections and a smattering of overhead dials that included splendid anomalies like an engine hour meter. It was also said to be fantastically roomy, which was all part of making the Fighter a realistic proposition day-to-day.
Sadly, too few owners ever got to test that potential; despite technically being in production for seven years until Bristol halted production in 2011, it's quite possible that there were only ever 13 cars to choose from. That makes the re-emergence of one of them in the classifieds an event worth celebrating - especially when said example is resplendent in Baltic Blue Metallic and Cognac leather and is said to be the first factory demonstrator. After a decade on the continent and with 17k on the clock, it's now being offered in the UK for around £30k less than its original asking price. One for the connoisseur, our advertiser suggests. And how.
SPECIFICATION - BRISTOL FIGHTER
Engine: 7,990cc, V10
Transmission: six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 532@5,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 525@4,200rpm
First registered: 2004
Recorded mileage: 17,000 miles
Price new: £229,000
Price now: £199,950
See the original advert here
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